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Cityfibre UK Build 1Gb FTTP Broadband into First Rural Village

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 2,459
cityfibre engineer over reel of purple fibre

Cityfibre’s FibreNation division, which was previously owned by UK ISP TalkTalk (here), has just completed an interesting new pilot Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) build that saw them deliver gigabit broadband to homes in the rural villages of Hollins Green and Rixton (Warrington). The operator usually only does towns and cities.

At present Cityfibre is focused on their £4bn investment plan (here), which currently aims to cover around 1 million premises by the end of 2021 and then 8 million across 100+ cities and towns (c.30% of the UK); the latter target is expected to be “substantially completed” by the end of 2025. All of this is usually supported by their residential ISP partners, such as Vodafone and TalkTalk.

Until now we haven’t seen the operator entering into any smaller or more rural communities, at least that was the case until one of our readers (Mark) spotted that FibreNation had recently laid optical fibre across the villages of Hollins Green and Rixton using existing Openreach’s (BT) existing cable ducts (Physical Infrastructure Access). This appears to have harnessed gigabit broadband vouchers under the government’s RGC scheme.

The area isn’t listed via Cityfibre’s own coverage checker, but it’s a different story if you try TalkTalk’s checker for their UltraFibreOptic product (this reflects networks deployed via FibreNation) – “Great news! You can order UFO online now” (i.e. c.900Mbps broadband at £27.50 per month for 18 months with a 450Mbps guaranteed speed). Clearly the operator still has some integration work to do.

Previously the only locations that FibreNation had publicly announced were York, Bolton, Dewsbury, Harrogate, Batley, Heckmondwike, Knaresborough and Ripon. Suffice to say that Hollins Green is a significantly smaller community and not the sort of location that we’d normally expect them to cover, although it’s also one that lacks any existing gigabit networks (unlike surrounding areas).

A CityFibre spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“We can confirm a full fibre roll-out in the Rixton and Hollins Green area. This is a pilot build of a rural area and is due to be completed before the end of the year. Funds were awarded to support the project from DCMS’s Rural Gigabit Voucher scheme.

CityFibre fully backs the Government’s goal of nationwide full fibre deployment by 2025 and this trial will contribute to the evaluation of how we might best support the deployment of full fibre in rural areas.”

All of this raises an obvious question, are Cityfibre going to expand beyond their more commercial areas and start looking at growing into increasingly rural locations? We’re confident they will. The Government’s forthcoming £5bn gigabit programme (F20), as well as the recent voucher scheme top-up (here), both create an opportunity for Cityfibre to grow beyond their urban roots (focusing on countryside areas that exist around their main city builds).

Alternative network providers are expected to play a much bigger role in the Government’s £5bn programme and Cityfibre’s move would certainly act as an additional competitive weight against BT’s (Openreach) influence.

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